LJUBLJANA (Slovenia), February 22 (SeeNews) - Slovenia's economy minister Zdravko Pocivalsek has said the government is seeking a stable and long-term owner of retailer Mercator [LJE:MELR] but has no interest towards acquiring ownership of the company, local media reported.
"The Slovenian state is not looking to buy Mercator, but we are trying to find an owner to put the company back on its feet," Slovenian daily Vecer quoted Pocivalsek as saying on Wednesday.
Pocivalsek declined to elaborate on the matter but confirmed that Slovenia is looking for someone who would overhaul the company and that the government will support any option other than acquiring the retailer itself.
The Slovenian economy minister explained that although Mercator is owned by Croatia's ailing concern Agrokor, which is currently under extraordinary management imposed by Croatia's government, a change in ownership is possible.
Pocivalsek added that currently an "open battle" is ongoing for ownership of Mercator due to debt collection procedures launched by "a major foreign bank".
In June last year, Russia's Sberbank enforced a pledge over a stake of 18.53% in Mercator. The 1,128,803 shares were pledged to Sberbank by financial holding company Agrokor Investments B.V. as collateral for claims against Agrokor.
According to Slovenian news broadcaster RTVSLO, Mercator is currently in the process of seeking banks' consent to change ownership ahead of the activation of the debt settlement plan in Agrokor, which foresees the creation of a new Agrokor company fully controlled by creditors and suppliers.
Mercator was acquired by Agrokor in 2014, and is seen by many to have been the 'the final nail in the coffin' for the indebted food-to-retail concern.
In April, Croatia's government seized control of Agrokor under special legislation designed to prevent the collapse of the concern. The government justified the adoption of the law popularly known as Lex Agrokor by saying Agrokor is a company of systemic importance for the country and its collapse could have a catastrophic impact on the economy.